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Health Commissioner says new tobacco laws will boost EU economy

25 February 2013 Last updated at 16:01 Help

The Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, has insisted that draft laws to further regulate the use and sale of tobacco in the EU will save thousands of lives and boost the EU economy.

He gave evidence to the Environment and Public Health Committee on 25 February 2013, following publication of revisions to the Tobacco Directive.

The European Commission says almost 700,000 Europeans die from smoking-related illnesses each year – equal to the population of Frankfurt or Palermo.

The associated costs for healthcare in the EU are estimated to be at least €25.3bn a year.

Mr Borg said that despite a reduction in revenue from the sale of tobacco, costs of tougher laws would be outweighed by reduced healthcare costs.

He also added that people who currently spend money on tobacco products could spend money elsewhere if they quit smoking, leading to an economic boost.

He said that the new laws would make it compulsory to include “shocking” pictorial information on tobacco labels, as currently done by 13 EU countries, and that warnings would have to cover 75% of cigarette packets.

The new directive would also ban strong flavours such as menthol or vanilla, which can mask the taste of tobacco.

Smoking in parliament

Some MEPs urged the Commission to go further, with British Labour MEP Glenis Willmott saying the EU should introduce plain packaging.

To applause from many colleagues she criticised the European Parliament for allowing smoking in some of the bars in parliamentary buildings.

“We have members who subject workers to smoke in the members bar in Brussels and Strasbourg and it is a disgrace,” she stated.

The EU would maintain its ban on chewing tobacco – called snus. Only people in Sweden can use it, under an exemption acknowledging the country’s snus tradition.

Swedish green MEP Carl Schlyter, said he was “one of the few Swedes who did not want to export the product”, and urged the Commission to regulate any type of nicotine product, whether it be cigarettes, e-cigarettes or chewing tobacco.

Tonio Borg became Health Commissioner in November 2012, after his predecessor John Dalli left the Commission following allegations of being embroiled in cash-for-influence allegations over the new tobacco directive.

Useful links.

The European Parliament’s disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations can be found here.

Read More

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